Brew Methods at Home

Three brew methods explored: Aeropress, pour over, and immersion.

When I first got into coffee as a hobby (yes coffee can be a verb ;)) I didn’t think I’d get much into the nerdy coffee brewing side of it. I just wanted to enjoy my craft cappuccino in a cozy café and let someone else figure out the math – I’d seen the pictures on Instagram of people weighing out their coffee and measuring the temperature of their water and it wasn’t for me.

Then, while working up in Maryland I started listening to podcasts during my commute. The one that really caught my attention was “I Brew my Own Coffee,” hosted by two coffee enthusiasts who usually have a guest on their show and cover a multitude of coffee topics. Curiosity got the best of me because I dug out my old French Press and blade grinder that I used for spices and started playing around with whole bean coffee that was gifted to me the Christmas before.

It was awful.

The beans were old, they were unevenly ground, the coffee was too dense for me. But I started changing some variables.. I got a $15 hand grinder – hilarious the first time I cranked that thing for a few tablespoons of coffee. Within a few iterations it got easier though :). I started employing a food scale I already had. And of course I purchased fresh coffee. A while later I made the plunge (pun intended) for my first Aeropress. Already a steal, I scored at Compass Coffee with a great military discount. Home brewing hasn’t been the same for me since.

When it became clear that my enjoyment of coffee was turning into some serious enthusiasm we upgraded our home brewing station with some nicer gadgets (my birthday and mother’s day fall within days of each other- for the win!)

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The current home-brew situation…….

Here are three common types of home brewing methods that you’ll often find the coffee enthusiast using: Aeropress, Pour over method (like Chemex or V60), and Immersion (Aeropress is immersion but here I refer to one that just uses gravity, like the Clever Dripper or Yama Silverton). All the ‘recipes’ I use have a 1/16 ratio of coffee to water (so 1g of coffee needs 16g of water. 15g of coffee (for a small cup) uses 240g of water). I also pre-wet the filters.

Aeropress.

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Aeropress with hand grinder and scale

Our first blog post was about Aeropress – it sort of has a cult following for its unique innovation and ease of use. It’s plastic and easy to travel with, and doesn’t take much extra equipment to make a good cup. You simply put in your freshly ground coffee, add water, stir, and plunge the water through the base. The Aeropress comes with a set of filters and standard recipe.

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Many grinders fit right into the Aeropress for easy travel

I did mention the cult following because people have come up with countless unique recipes (double filter, inversion method, espresso, etc.), and obviously started competing with Aeropress (on a National level even). It’s my go-to when I’m at the office because it perfectly brews a single cup – even if I do look like a mad scientist.

Most cafes in the area sell them but the only ones we can think of that serves them are Zeke’s and Vigilante.

My go-to recipe: The one that it came with!

  • Coffee: 15g, finely ground (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Water: 175 degrees F (bring water to a boil, wait a minute or two. I also just microwave water at work). 240 g (or to just above the “4” mark on the Aero).
  • Stir for 10 seconds.
  • Plunge for 20 seconds.

 

Pourover.

The most popular/common pour over methods you might hear about are Chemex, Hario V60 and Kalita. Many cafes around town use the Kalita, like the Wydown and Maketto. Dolcezza and Compass Coffee use a Chemex. Peregrine uses the Beehive dripper. They are all pretty nerdy and require a scale, a timer/calculator, and they fare best with a gooseneck kettle for a controlled pour.

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The Grosche pour over system and the Kalita Wave

My first cup of specialty coffee was served as a pour over and the Barista kept one hand behind his back as he expertly swirled the water over my grounds in timed intervals. It’s an artistic method of brewing coffee and though it can be intimidating, can make a great cup.

My go-to recipe: the 10/30 method. It’s 10% of the allotted water for the bloom, then three increments of 30% of water for the rest.

  • Coffee: 21g, medium ground
  • Water: 204 degrees F (just shy of boiling), 336g
  • Pour 33 g of water for the bloom, to release the gases. Wait 20-30 seconds.
  • Add 101g of water in a slow, circular motion to cover all the grounds.
  • Wait until most of the water has dripped through, then repeat, twice.

 

Immersion.

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Yama Silverton

This method is pretty fool proof and with the Clever Dripper being so affordable, a great place to start home-brewing. The ground coffee and water are combined, left to steep for short period, then all the water is released at once. This is actually how La Colombe serves their ‘pour overs’ (using a Yama Silverton). Killer E.S.P. in Alexandria uses the Clever Dripper.

My go-to recipe:

  • Coffee: 20g, medium ground
  • Water: 198 degrees F, 320g
  • Pour 30g of water for the bloom, to release the gases. Wait 30 seconds.
  • Pour 290g of water over the coffee.
  • At the 3:00 minute mark, release the coffee. It should all be poured out by about 3:45 minutes. If it goes too fast, grind your coffee finer; if it goes too slow, grind your coffee coarser.

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I’ve completely become that nerdy home brewer I used to mock! Ha, I’m constantly asking my baristas questions about water temperature and grind size (I’m told to start with the coarseness of Kosher salt and work up and down from there – Matt from the Coffee Bar once sent me home with a tablespoon of coffee, ground to their coarseness they use, so I could compare to mine.) Water can make a big impact and I’ve brewed with spring water to see if my water pipes are affecting my brew. I donate all the coffee over 14 days past roast date to my husband’s office who have just started noticing the difference between good coffee and Folger’s (I also donated my blade grinder to them, which makes them feel like coffee connoisseurs!) Yep, I’m my own worst enemy.

Well we all have to have hobbies and this is mine. I have a harder time drinking ‘bad’ coffee now than I did before but as Ethan from La Colombe once told us, there is still something to be said about drinking the indistinguishable coffee from the drip brewer at your mom’s house. It probably has a timer so that it’s brewed by the time you wake up in the morning. Plus, it’s time shared, memories made, and a cup to warm your soul.

How do you drink coffee at home? We love to hear from you!

Stay Grounded,

Daniëlle

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Meet the New Katz on the Block…

Dream. Declare. Deliver.

This is the tagline for Katz District Coffee, and it couldn’t be more appropriate.

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Katz District Coffee’s center of operations

Kyle Katz and Brian Edling used to be roommates in DC. Their love for coffee originated with a chocolate-y, almost Snickers-like cup of coffee from Filter Coffeehouse in Dupont that really opened their eyes to what coffee could be. Kyle then moved to his home state of Florida for a job that couldn’t be passed up before making his way to Atlanta. At that point he was faced with the question: “What is it that gets you up in the morning?” Realizing his answer wasn’t satisfactory, he rearranged his priorities and set out to accomplish his goal of making a really good cup of coffee.

Meanwhile, Brian and his girlfriend, still living in DC, decided to take several months to travel around Southeast Asia. That was when he received a call from Kyle telling him about his idea and asking if he was interested. Without hesitation, still in Thailand at the time, Brian hopped on board. This was early 2016, not even a year ago.

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In less than a year Katz District Coffee has grown from dream to realization.

They have been full speed ahead ever since. The two found warehouse space in College Park which they are really excited about. College Park has developed a “College Park City – University Partnership” to become a sustainable top 20 college town by 2020, and Katz District Coffee feels lucky to be a part of that. They figured out what kind of roaster they wanted after Kyle’s previous experience learning from the guys at Firelight Coffee Roasters in Atlanta. So they took their van down to Florida to pick up their roaster, picked up some beans from a crazy coffee enthusiast in Tampa with a warehouse lined with silos of coffee beans, and made their way back up to roast their very first official batch of Katz District Coffee.

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The roaster in action

The guys tried around twenty different kinds of coffees before settling on their current four, all fair trade and good for this colder weather: Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, and Sumatra. The Sumatra is processed specifically by women through the cooperative Kopi Wanita, and the profits in turn go towards training programs for female co-op members. They are fond of the single-origins, citing that they help one learn what they like about different kinds of beans.

Through my time talking to them, it’s clear that they are not only passionate about coffee, but about coffee education, teaching people more about the process of farm to cup and helping them discover the different aspects of coffee. It’s also evident how welcome they feel entering the DC coffee scene. Rather than feeling threatened or intimidated, they feel inspired and encouraged, and honored to play a part in it all.

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Brian roasting up a new batch of coffee

Kyle handles the sales and marketing side of the business while Brian handles operations and roasting. The two still work outside part-time jobs until the business really takes off, which my guess will be soon.

Katz District Coffee is currently available for retail at Dacha Market and Pleasant Pops as well as on their website. Stay tuned for more places to find them! Everything is roasted to order with their beans being good for up to a month. You can even order a sample box and receive 4 oz. packages of all four of their current offerings.

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On the shelf at Pleasant Pops in Adams Morgan

They look forward to exploring how to roast the perfect bean for an iced coffee or cold brew, and a storefront is definitely on the horizon. But for now, I still sit amazed at how much they have accomplished in such a short period of time. It just goes to show that if you DREAM something and DECLARE it, you can DELIVER.

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren

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Checking on the beans in the middle of the roasting process

Sweet or Savory Treat?

I used to have a pretty sizable selective sweet tooth. Selective? I’m not big into candy, but dessert was my favorite meal of the day and I really didn’t drink coffee unless I had a cookie or pastry along with it (I drink my coffee black). But it had to be a good pastry.

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I also enjoy being in shape, however, and I realized that I would never quite reach my goals unless I worked on my nutrition so I started cutting back on the treats. Much to my amazement, my cravings for sweets have actually subsided to the point where I would be comfortable saying I don’t have a sweet tooth, and I can handle a fancy dinner without dessert (unless there’s a flourless chocolate cake on the menu. Then all bets are off). And I’m talking long term – it’s been a few years since I followed the nutrition plan that curbed the sweets (I still enjoy sweets but no longer crave them).

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So many sweet and savory options at Bakery 350

But I still like that pastry with my coffee – my go-to is a plain croissant. But remember “selective?” Not any old croissant will do. So lately I have been branching out and I’m excited where it has led me.

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The go-to croissant at Ceremony Coffee

First there is the classic cheddar and chive biscuit (sometimes with bacon). A silky quiche pairs nicely with a pour over as well. Then there is a rosemary scone – loved what that did to the flavors of my coffee, very surprising. And Kolaches. How about a play on savory AND sweet? The thyme shortbread cookie.

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Cheddar and chive biscuit at Qualia Coffee
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Thyme shortbread cookie at Pineapple and Pearls
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BOG quiche (bacon, onion, gruyere) at Killer ESP

I do caution anyone pairing something spicy with their coffee. Spicy messes with your tongue and you really lose the nuances of the coffee, so be wary of the cayenne chocolate treats.

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Spicy Raaka chocolate
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Kolaches at Vigilante

I’m probably to the point now where I seek out the savory at cafes and I’m disappointed when they only serve sweet. So please share: what are some of your favorite savory pairings? What sweets do I need to make an exception for?

Stay grounded,

Daniëlle

Roaster of the Month: Compass Coffee

We at District of Coffee love our veterans as you might have noticed from our last couple posts. Today we round out our veteran-themed week by highlighting one of DC’s favorite coffee roasters: Compass Coffee.

Compass was founded by two former Marines – Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez. Both grew up in DC, but they didn’t meet until going to college at Washington University in St. Louis (Go Cardinals!). While deployed in Afghanistan, the two bonded over their lack of access to good coffee. And thus, upon returning home from serving our country, they began to serve people in a brand new way, with real good coffee.

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A real good latte

They first started with an e-book, Perfect Coffee at Home, and soon grew that into Compass Coffee. Why the name Compass? According to the website, “Our coffee and our cafes will always help our customers get their bearings and point them in the right direction for the rest of the day.” Sounds like something I need every day.

Compass’s Head Roaster Alex Parker didn’t intend to find himself in the coffee biz. In fact, he moved to DC to work at a nonprofit and “change the world,” a narrative I and so many others can relate to. He came across Compass as they were preparing to open their first store in Shaw over 2 years ago, and soon enough he became part of the family, graduating from Assistant Manager to Manager at their Shay location to Head Roaster. The latter is still a fairly new position, one with a steep learning curve, but Alex welcomes the challenge and even has two apprentices working under him to learn the craft.

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Compass’s Loring roaster rests between batches

The roaster serves as a centerpiece of the store, a conversation starter, with a roasting bar that invites customers to sit and ask questions about the roasting process. The brand of roaster produces 85% less emissions, allowing it to be out in the open and give customers a behind-the-scenes peek you might not get other places.

Compass offers 9 blends year round – 3 from each major coffee-producing region (Americas, Africa, East Asia), each with one light, one medium, and one dark roast. They also offer single-origins, but it is their blends that prove the most popular. You can see the flavor profiles of all their coffees colorfully marked on every can of beans. They are currently serving an Autumn Blend Alex worked to create, and he is currently trying to determine the perfect recipe for their Holiday Blend.

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Behind the scenes in their coffee lab

It’s hard to imagine Compass has only been around for two years when you consider their fast-growing presence around the city and how they were on the precipice of the Made in DC movement. Two new locations opened up in 2016, less than four months apart, bringing them to four cafes total. For those in Ivy City, you might also notice Compass’s presence beginning to take shape. They have simply outgrown their original roasting space and are planning to open a new, larger roasting facility at the Hecht Warehouse that will also include a storefront.

So what is it about Compass that keeps people coming back? Is it the product? The story? The atmosphere? Alex suggests it’s because they work hard at making good coffee that’s approachable for everyone. He also marvels at the consistent upbeat attitudes from the baristas – “I don’t know how they’re all always so nice.” What do you think it is?

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Outside Compass’s first location on 7th St. NW

The Stats:

Year founded: 2014
Roaster manufacturer: Loring S35 Kestrel
Calibration Program/software: Varies with roast
Capacity:  About 75 lbs.
Lbs per day: 2000-2200 lbs.
Bean sourcing: Work with several importers they have developed close relationships with
Cuppings frequency: As needed when roasting
Packaging: Tin cans, all displaying their flavor matrix
Where to buy: Currently offering retail at coffee shop and online, Whole Foods, Yes! Organic Market, numerous other restaurants and shops
Store Locations:  4: Shaw, The Shay, Downtown, Farragut
     BONUS:
Recommendation that’s on the shelf now: Autumn Blend

Keep caffeinated,

Lauren